My life story is filled to the brim with pivotal points. Many losses, gains, transfers and complete rebirths within my path have made me feel more than prepared for any change that will inevitably come. And yet the entire week before touring the Cape Coast slave castle, I felt an utter hopelessness in finding any way to prepare myself. How do you look your people’s enslavement in the face, and keep your own straight?
You don’t. You can’t.
“I will never know a darkness as deep as that; the type that makes you question if light ever existed.”
The Trans-Atlantic slave trade changed everything. They made me, America and Africa who we are today. The first step I took into that space of our world’s unjust history overwhelmed me. Watching the waves crash and crash and crash against the rocky beach overlooked by the castle brought to my mind my ancestors who jumped, or were pushed, off the slave ships. I imagined all the souls lost in the water. The ocean, and the bodies, looked endless.
I was completely overcome with emotion as we toured the dungeons and cells. My heart skipped beats as I stepped into the small, dark, dank, closed off spaces that held hundreds of Africans captive for months at a time. They showed us how high the bodily waste piled and how dark the room could get. I will never know a darkness as deep as that; the type that makes you question if light ever existed. They told us that some people went blind there. They told us how the British built a church over the dungeons, and slaves could hear the sounds of their worship as they suffered below. This was their introduction to Christianity.
They had special cells for men who fought back and women who refused to be raped, with special procedures designed to either break the spirit or kill the body. Female slaves were raped daily, and if impregnated, allowed to raise their kids for about ten years before they were enslaved again. The Cape Coast castle is just one of three located in Ghana, and could hold around 1,000 people at a time. So many lives, stories and spirits.
After our tour, I wanted to scream. I wanted to scream so loud I could be heard across the ocean. I wanted to be strong enough to tear the castle down, brick by brick. I wanted to hold my breath long enough to reach the ocean floor, pull my ancestors up, and bury them properly. I wanted to know what their last thoughts were. To know that you are going to die, brutally, separated from your loved ones, and violated as a human being is just part of the generational trauma of the African descent that was deeply triggered within me on that day. I don’t think enough words in the world could truly describe it.
Walking back through the door of no return was a privilege and another pivotal point in my life. It felt like I was completing a circle and breaking a curse through my own homegoing. That experience will remain everlasting in my mind, and in the minds of my children, and their children. It is something we can never afford to forget.
My name is Chasejamison Akilah Manar-Spears. I am from Oakland, California. I’m a 3rd year Sociology major who is minoring in Leadership and Cultural Proficiency. I’ll be studying abroad at the University of Ghana for the school year, and sharing my experiences with you all here. I don’t feel sorry for starting on such a devastating note, because it was that same note that founded the United States of America I am a citizen of today. It is that same note that brought me to where I am now. All the losses, gains, transfers, and complete rebirths in my life were planted with the seeds of my ancestors enslavement. And it is because of what I know and what I’ve experienced that I must dedicate my purpose in your life to the telling of these stories.
Especially since my life now seems to be overflowing with them.
Chasejamison Akilah Manar Spears is studying sociology, cultural proficiency and leadership. She is studying at the University of Ghana in Accra, Ghana for the entire academic year.
Chase, this is outstanding!
I love the eligant respectful discriptions, and how I can invision it all.